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Friday, May 24, 2024

Retouching

Industry Insights

Survey

From The Pros

What I Learned: The 2024 Retouching Industry Survey

What I Learned: The 2024 Retouching Industry Survey

What I Learned: The 2024 Retouching Industry Survey

verybusy.io co-founder Emily Fishman breaks down some key points she learned while writing the 2024 Retouching Industry Survey report.

Emily Fishman verybusy.io

Emily Fishman

Emily Fishman

co-founder, verybusy.io

co-founder, verybusy.io

Takeaways from the 2024 Retouching Industry Survey

Next Month, we’ll be sharing the results of the 2024 Retouching Industry Survey powered by verybusy.io. The survey report, currently in its final stages, is over 120 pages and contains data about rates relative to various demographic factors, including gender and ethnicity, as well as information about rates relative to specific types of retouching and salaried roles.

As retouchers ourselves, we are familiar with the black box in which we work—figuratively and sometimes literally. If you’ve ever wondered what to charge, you’re not alone. Judging by the number of survey respondents, we’ve found at least 92 peers around the world who share your search for knowledge. Yes, we’re thrilled and grateful that 92 retouchers completed the survey in full—not a small ask. While we finish the report, we want to share a few key takeaways from crunching the numbers.

**Note:** While 92 respondents are a healthy pool, we consider the survey results representative but not conclusive.

Freelancer Insights

Retouchers reported their average rate for creative and ecommerce retouching. The average rate for all respondents who reported that 50% or more of their income was earned through freelance retouching is $99/hour (n=67). The median was $100, reflecting a fairly even distribution of responses.


Average Retouching Rate By Continent


**Note:** No one reporting from Asia reported earning 50% or more of their annual income through retouching.

As one might expect, rates increase somewhat when ecommerce retouching is excluded from the averages.

Most respondents had between 6 and 15 years of experience. Rates increase steadily with experience, except beyond 20 years, where we see a slight dip. The highest average rates were reported by those with between 16 and 20 years of experience.


North America and International Retouching Rates By Years Of Experience


There was a fairly even split between male and female respondents, with 37 male and 30 female respondents. The data shows that women consistently charge less than their male counterparts. The biggest discrepancy was in the reported rates for e-comm on-figure retouching, where female respondents charge ~21% less than male respondents. According to the UN, internationally, women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

The data doesn’t tell us if this is an issue of people identifying as female undervaluing themselves or employers undervaluing people identifying as female. Given historical evidence, we suspect both are at play. According to data from the Pew Research Center, “[w]omen are much more likely than men (61% vs. 37%) to say a major reason for the gap is that employers treat women differently.”


Retouching Rate - Female vs Male - Gender


In terms of what clients are paying, magazines surprisingly came up with the top result at an average rate of $150/hour for an Architecture client. However, only 7 respondents reported working for magazines, and the average rate is $103/hour. With a much higher pool of respondents, agencies came up as paying the next highest rates at an average of $108/hour. Brands were right behind at an average rate of $107/hour. Notably, the clients for which retouchers are charging the lowest rates are other retouchers who are hiring them.


Top paying clients by type of retouching


Keep in mind that up until this point, we have been looking at averages. The chart below shows the highest-charging retouchers relative to the type of retouching they reported. The highest rate we saw is $550 from a retoucher reporting from North America. This range of rates reflects a number of factors, including geographic location, years of experience, client, overhead, etc.


Highest Rate by Type of Retouching Relative to Years of Experience


Salaried Insights

A quick caveat here: in the survey, we did not ask respondents to narrow their reporting down to the last few years; therefore, we may have received some responses that are out of step with the current marketplace. Additionally, we do not have information about years of experience relative to starting salary.

In North America, the average starting salary for a retoucher is $74,608. Los Angeles and NYC Metros both came in at higher average starting salaries, with respondents from Los Angeles Metro reporting a starting salary of around $90k and respondents from NYC Metro reporting an average of $86k. This may reflect the cost of living or the higher demand for specialized talent and greater competition.

Again in salaries, we see a discrepancy in what men and women receive for their services; women report a starting salary that is about 28% lower than their male counterparts. Women do catch up over time and command a higher salary with more experience. It’s important to note, however, that there are few women reporting at the senior level; the majority of women fall within the 3-5 years on the job.

From reviewing the data, we learned there’s a great difference in benefits offered to retouchers across different regions. In North America, a significant majority of respondents report being offered retirement plans, medical insurance, and paid holidays. In Europe, the benefits are less comprehensive, with lower percentages of respondents reporting offerings such as medical insurance and bonuses.

Again, thank you to all of you who contributed. Please keep an eye out for future surveys. The more respondents who contribute, the more meaningful the data and the more representative it is.

To get more insights like these, sign up for our monthly newsletter.


Emily Fishman verybusy.io

Emily Fishman

Emily Fishman

co-founder, verybusy.io

co-founder, verybusy.io

What would you like to see?

We love the photography industry and want to see others thrive. One way we can help is to provide tools that give you time back and help you scale. Another way is to encourage the sharing of information among our community. If there is anything you’d like to see in verybusy.io or on our blog, give us a shout at hello@verybusy.io. - Team VB

What would you like to see?

We love the photography industry and want to see others thrive. One way we can help is to provide tools that give you time back and help you scale. Another way is to encourage the sharing of information among our community. If there is anything you’d like to see in VeryBusy or on our blog, give us a shout at hello@verybusy.io. - Team VB